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[Hebrew page 71 & Yiddish page 231]

Preparations for Passover in Bolechow

by Yonah Eshel-Elendman

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Of all the holidays with which we were blessed, our Festival of Freedom took nine measures or preparation.

It was beloved by young and old. It was full of encouragement, and influenced the manner of life for several months before it arrived.

People would make wine from raisins. This homemade product was the best of the best.Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Our mothers prepared all types of drinks from berries of the forest: hackberries, cherries, and raspberries that were plentiful in the area. These were preserved in flasks. During times of illness, these also refreshed the longing soul.

In the middle of the winter, approximately at the time of Chanukah, they would slaughter fat ducks. The feathers were plucked. (The plucking of the feathers, performed together by neighbors, was a pleasant episode. It kept the children busy on long winter nights). After that, they would melt the fat, separate out the tasty, brown cracklings (gribn [1]) to be used to spice the Passover foods, puddings and soufflés. This task was done with an air of great importance. The fat was preserved in earthenware pots. This was the custom from days of yore.

The Borscht

With spotlessly washed hands, wearing starchless aprons (due to the chometz in the starch [2]), our mothers started their work. They drew the water directly from the well into an earthenware vessel set aside for that purpose. They would chop the beets into pieces. At the end of the job, they would cover the vessel with a clear white cloth, and put it away in a far off corner, hidden away so that nobody would approach. This “red, red” [3] became fizzy, and waited to have its turn to benefit people. Until this day, its sweet taste did not leave my palate.

The Baking of Matzos

What is the baking of matzos? A communal task.

We did not purchase the “bread of affliction”; we did not get it from nowhere. On the contrary! Every housewife would bake this matzo in accordance with the size of her family, in accordance with a set procedure. Thus was it done: A room was emptied out and whitewashed. The entire room was sparkly clean. They would set up long, smooth tables, as the tables of a Beis Midrash. A flaming oven was in the kitchen beside the room. From where was the staff? Were they hired? Don't even mention that. They were the children of friends and neighbors. When Batya Malka was baking, the daughters of Chava Lea assisted her. When Yenta Soshia baked, the daughters of Chancha came to help. Thus it went around. Thus were the youth willingly enlisted to this communal endeavor, without being commanded.

A pleasant sight unfolded before your eyes when you entered the room in which the matzo was baked. Two rows of girls, gleeful, charming and tall, stood next to the tables, wearing white aprons. They were kneading the dough. The rolling pin passed over the dough and rounded it into the shape of a matzo. It was then placed in the oven. The left over dough was baked into tiny matzos (matzalach) for the children.

This was an activity filled with conversation, joy, laughter and jokes.

The room in which the bread of affliction was prepared turned rich [4]. With gladness and bubbling life. A large quantity of matzo was baked for the holiday. It was not simply baked in accordance with the number of children, for they did not skimp on eating it. On the contrary, it would be eaten even after the festival.

The baked matzos were placed in large, round baskets, covered well with large white cloths, and put in a corner where nobody would go.

However, “stolen water is sweet”. Did you pass the test?…

New Clothing for the Festival

Who of us did not have new clothes for the holiday? Shoes? During the winter, in particular as the snow was melting, shoes tore quickly, for they got worn out, tattered, and softened. They were repaired with patches upon patches, but new ones were not obtained until the festival.

Who other than us us, the children of the towns – towns infused with tradition of many generations that tried through the festivals to improve and glorify the dark, lowly life of the exile, and to grant them grace, beauty and a fine form – felt the meaning of new clothes at Passover.

Whitewashing and Cleaning

Now we reach the final stage of preparations. The most important steps were the whitewashing, the thorough cleaning of the home. If you passed through the streets of Bolechow on one of the days leading up to Passover, you would see a different view before you. On Egypt Street [5], Rusaki Bolechow, Shuster (Shoemaker's) Street, there was chaos, confusion, like the overturning of Sodom and Gomorrah. There were household objects, beds and mattresses. Corner beds (small beds that served as a type of bench during the day), shlabenes (wider than the above), taptshenes [6], milk benches, meat benches, blankets, pillow, kitchen utensils, dough troughs, baking moulds, etc., etc. Everything was placed outside.

Mothers and daughters were busy working. They would scrub, scour, scrape, and turn over every object to remove any trace of grime or chometz from any crevice and crack.

At the same time, the vessels were purged [7] with great deliberation and fanfare. During the whitewashing and thorough cleansing, we would sit on overturned pails, crates and barrels, for the chairs were outside. Thus is pleasant and fitting before Passover.

During the course of the year, if a dish broke, one would use a Passover dish. However, from Rosh Chodesh Nissan [8] they would buy new ones, so as not to impinge of the utensils of the festival of festivals.

The new vessel was immersed in the river before use – a proper custom!

The shoemaker, the tailor, the dyer, the whitewasher, the carpenter, and later on the barber and the bath attendant all had their hands full of work. They worked with full steam. The time came, work became greater, grocery stores were busier, prices doubled. The simple folk earned their wages at one time.

At the conclusion of my tour of Bolechow before Passover, permit me to make one point. The conduct, the communal baking of matzo, the mutual assistance – how pleasant was it. It added to the Festival of Spring a longing for freedom and democratic means.

The matzo, which was not produced by a cold, silent machine, was flavored with the energy of the enthusiastic youth, which was poured into it above all ingredients.

All of the proceedings of the Seder, from the Four Questions to Chad Gadya, etc., are they not written in the Haggadah of Passover.

[Hebrew page 73 & Yiddish page 234]

Bnot Tzion (The Daughters of Zion)

by Yonah Eshel-Elendman

Translated by Jerrold Landau

In memory of my sister Gitele of blessed memory

My native town of Bolechow in eastern Galicia was numbered among those few towns that were diligent in the study of modern Hebrew at the beginning of the time of the Zionist movement.

This was made possible not because our town was rich, but because it was enlightened and thirsting for knowledge, and the status of the scholar was revered.

Therefore, we found in our town many Maskilim who knew Hebrew language and literature very well. Several of them such as Shlomo Neimark, Yisrael Yoel Spiegel, and others were occupied in the teaching of Bible, not only to boys, but also to girls such as the daughters of the wealthy people: Avrahamele Kurtzer, David Graubard, etc.

Since it was not necessary to bring in teachers from outside, there were no difficulties in founding the Hebrew school, which began to interest the hearts of the finest Zionists of eastern Galicia. The teaching of the Hebrew language in Bolechow, mainly by residents of the town, continued uninterrupted until the Holocaust.

The first Hebrew school, “Tushia”, was founded by Neimark and Spiegel. That school produced not only many students, but also teachers.

On the heals of “Tushia”, a school called “Safa Berura” was founded after some time. Boys as well as girls studied there.

From 1911-1913, “Bnot Tzion” courses were run by my teacher Chuna-Chanan Hendel. There were only two sessions, since my teacher then moved to Moravia.

In this article, I wish to devote some words to the first “Bnot Tzion” group, of which I was a student. The work of my teacher is fitting to be pointed out in a unique fashion, since his teaching methodology and relationship to us was outside of what was usual and customary.

Our teacher did not suffice himself with merely the teaching of Hebrew language and literature. He devoted himself primarily to the winning over of souls to the nationalistic idea, that is, to turn us into daughters of Zion [9]. He imparted to us the value of Judaism, and tried to impart to our hearts the love of our nation, and our cultural heritage, in order to awaken in us the desire to dedicate ourselves and actualize the Zionist idea.

Since our teacher was one of the prime disciples of Ahad Haam, he made great efforts to instill his Zionist concepts within us. In particular, he emphasized the theory of Ahad Haam with respect to “The Man and the Tent”, explaining that the revival of our nation and our Land will not be attained unless we first rectify ourselves and free ourselves from our bad ideas and traits.

This Zionist concept that demanded every Jewish person to rectify himself and to give his share toward the rebuilding of our nation, caught our hearts, young hearts in which the pure religions faith had become weakened on the one hand, and the need for searching for additional meaning in our life was felt by us on the other hand. Therefore, the seed which our teacher planted in us took root and produced praiseworthy fruit.

Most of Bnot Tzion were dedicated to the Zionist idea and were active in the field of teaching or social assistance toward those of lesser means.

{Photo page 74 top: Bnot Tzion.}

{Photo page 74 bottom: A Hebrew class. The teacher is Rachel Reis.}

During the time of the First World War, Rachel Reis-Hendel founded, along with my dear brother Eli may G-d avenge his blood, a shelter for needy children. She directed this institution along with her friends in Bnot Tzion. Aside from this, she occupied herself with teaching in Bolechow until she left for Moravia when she got married to our teacher. She continued to teach there. She taught in an elementary school after she made aliya.

Rivka Kurtz- Gesthelter, one of Bnot Tzion, taught in Lwow after her parents of blessed memory moved there.

I also was occupied in teaching in Bolechow, Drohowice, Dolina and Danzig. In the Land, I worked with great satisfaction at teaching evening classes, primarily to adults and to those who were learning the language.

Chedva Nimes taught in elementary schools in Lwow, Mezheritz, and Stanislawow, where she was cut off in her prime.

As I mentioned above, our teacher was a disciple of Ahad Haam. Therefore, he taught us his works. Thus, we also studied the poems of Bialik, the stories of Fierberg, and we dealt with “Lon” with great dedication. We did not skip over any important writer, including the nemesis of Ahad Haam, Berdichevsky.

I must point that, despite the fact that out teacher was a freethinker, he was careful not to contradict our religious belief. On the contrary, he tried to arouse in us a dutiful relationship to tradition, to the heritage of our ancestors, and to that which is sacred to our nation.

It is fitting to point out as well his friendly relations to us. A strong friendship arose between us during the time that he was teaching, that continues to this day.

Aside from Bible and literature, we studied diligently the history of our people. Our teacher knew how to make the history of our people dear to us through his enthusiastic lectures, when the spirit hit him. Such occasions were generally dependent on the presence of Rivka Kurtz-Gesthelter, who also displayed an extraordinary understanding of and interest in history.

We can see how dear this subject was to us by the fact that when our teacher promised to give a lecture to us on a segment of history, it immediately moved us to a straight spirit, and calmed us when we lost our temper on account of the excesses of youth that overtook us on occasion and led us to occasions of wildness.

Our dedication to our studies in our school, which was like a miniature sanctuary to us, was a topic of conversation in Bolechow, for we were seen during most of the hours of the day and evening in the company of our teacher, engrossed in conversation and serious debates. People were astonished at this unusual situation.

Even I, the writer of these lines, am at times amazed at this unusual situation. Even intelligent and sober men can see what this is based upon from two incidents, which are etched among others in my memory.

I recall one winter day, when the snow was very high and covered the entire town. I set out for the class. With difficulty and great effort, as my feet sunk into the snow and reached the level of the ground on the path, I arrived with my last breath to the alley behind the “Small Kloiz” where our class was held. The house had sunk and was buried in mud. The room was covered with a thick covering of snow, and my hands were empty. Should I return? That would be too bad. It was not possible to miss a class! Neighbors saw me, understood my anguish and distress, and cleared off the door so that I could open it.

The following is the second event that I remember. We used to continue our studies until two days before Passover. It once happened that one of the students, Rachel Reis, was sent by her mother to summon a gentile to clean their house after the whitewashing. When she passed by the house in which we studied, she was not able to pass by without coming in for a small moment. She became so engrossed in the topic that she forgot her mission and remained with us.

It is no wonder. The studies played a central role in our life in the town. There was always an exultation of spirit in the study hall, which took our minds off of the day to day worries that afflicted each one of us.

A proof that this is not a corrupted idea of childhood memory, refined by the splendor and shine of the past, can be seen from the experience of one of our visitors, a trustworthy person.

We also studied on the Sabbath. This class was like our Sabbath celebration (Oneg Shabbat). One Sabbath, the writer Yonah Gelernter of blessed memory visited us. He was the teacher and pedagogue of Professor Chaies of blessed memory. He sat for a long time and listened with great concentration and attention. As he left, he uttered, “Indeed, the spirit of Jewry dwells here.”

As I write down the memories of these words, I must confess that Gelernter was correct.

Indeed, there were set times for classes. However, out teacher never looked at the clock. Of what use is a clock? When the student is engaged, the ears are listening and the heart is open, alert and longing. More than we wished to learn, our teacher wished to teach. He was not satisfied with the set times, but rather continued teaching on past the time. We gathered almost every evening in the “Walking Garden”, where we discussed and debated matters that were of utmost importance to us. Thus did we fulfil the commandment, “And you shall delve into it day and night.” [10]

Our teacher also concerned himself with our self-completion. To this end, we founded, with his assistance, a library called “Bnot Tzion”, which we guarded as the apple of our eye. We devoured the books like a ripe fig before summer. Once, a fire broke out on a street near that library. We all hurried over there to save the library from the fire.

Through the advise of Srulke Spiegel (the brother of Golda who was a student in the course), an enthusiastic Zionist and zealous Hebrew, to our great distress, our teacher was invited by the “Zion” organization to Omelitz to win over souls for Zionism and Hebrew culture.

Our connection was not severed. We continued to study together. Letters from the teacher in Omelitz united us. Joy was at its height when a letter arrived. At times we got wild, and made noise in the outskirts of Bolechow. Word spread quickly that a letter had arrived from the teacher. We ran to one of the members to read it, We turned it over and over as we desired to find out how he was doing, and particularly about his activities.

“Bnot Tzion”, where are you? You did not make it to Zion. The hand of the impure murderers, may their names be blotted out, reached you. You were slaughtered along with all who were dear to us:

Lena Gruss, Baltchi Weschler, Sara Neibauer, Gitele Elendman, Ravchi Frost, Feiga Kurtz, Leicha Korel, Golda Spiegel. May G-d avenge your vengeance, and may your pure souls be bound up in the bonds along with the rest of the martyrs of Israel. We three “Bnot Tzion”, Rachel Reis-Hendel, Rivka Kurtz-Gesthelter and Yona Eshel, who remained alive and live together with our teacher in Haifa, continue our friendship and will guard your memories in our hearts forever.

[Yiddish page 242]

Resurrection of the Dead

by M. A. Tenenblat

(An excerpt from the Lemberger Tagblatt, March 6, 1918)

Is it indeed a holy word, which is used by us only in the specific situation when the principles of Jewish faith are bound up with iron chains? The coming of the Messiah and the resurrection of the dead are bound together like a flame to a candle. The latter without the former is completely inconceivable in the Jewish religious ethos.

Indeed, I witnessed this with my own eyes in the last few days. It is no fantasy, no exaggeration, only simple reality, that matters which a few short months and years ago were considered dead and lost from the body and especially from the soul of the Jewish people – have suddenly sprouted to life before my very eyes.

It is not long ago, I believe, since Bohemia and Moravia gave forth the Half Shekels of Rabbi Yonatan Eibeshitz – the many rabbis and leaders of the generation whose Torah and wisdom lit up not only their own lands, but also far of lands of Poland and White Russia. However, suddenly, the wellspring of Torah of Bohemian and Moravian Jewry became stopped up.

Some time ago, there was a complete interruption of Bohemian and Moravian Jewry from the new Jewish creativity of eastern Jewry and the Land of Israel.

In recent days, I spent a brief time in Olomouc. Since I had heard that there had been a Hebrew teacher from Galicia there for a long time, I naturally wanted to see him. I wanted to join in the despair of an eastern Jewish scholar who finds himself in a strange plase, a foundling who is lost among the gentiles. I wanted to see what the stubborn Galician idealist was doing in half German, half Czech Olomouc, with its 1,400 dead Jewish souls. I wanted to convince him simply that it was a sin to sit in some Moravian town and expend strength, energy, and holy idealism there – futile and fruitless – while Galicia itself has lost yet another Hebrew teacher, and searches for him with light.

I wanted to convince him, and he completely convinced me. I could scarcely believe my own eyes. I believed that he himself was in a half-dead spiritual milieu. However, I found myself in a place that made me believe that I was in Lemberg, Stryj, Drohobyce, etc. I could not believe that this was indeed Olomouc in Moravia. Stubbornness in general is no small thing. Another case of Jewish stubbornness intermingled with idealism caused him to undertake the first attempt of introducing modern eastern Jewish content to western Austrian Jewry. He persisted, and the experiment succeeded – splendidly succeeded.

His name is Chona Hendel. The young man is from Bolechow, Galicia, where he disseminated Torah for several years, and introduced Hebrew literature to a large number of girls who became readers. For in Bolechow, Galicia, as well, he had his own methodology. He educated only girls, and they studied Hebrew language and literature. His educational methodology was conducted in such a way so as to encourage us to invest all our efforts and energy in winning over the Jewish daughter, the future mother. Without her commitment to Judaism, the Jewish home could not be Jewish. He did this in Bolechow and now he was doing this in Olomouc. He left here already before the war, but he endured the first Russian invasion during a visit to Bolechow. He did not want to wait around for the second one. To him, it was a sin to abandon his work in the spreading of Hebrew in Olomouc, so he escaped back to Olomouc with great self-dedication so that he could resume his activities. He stubbornly persisted in ensuring that there would be a Hebrew circle in Olomouc, where one would read Ahad Haam and general Hebrew literature.

He began working with a few family members. It was not easy. We must realize that even with us in Galicia of today, it is very difficult to convince even one of our Zionist leaders that Zionism without Hebrew, Zionism without Jewish knowledge, is an absurdity, is not Zionism, but is rather at best the first step toward the way of proper Zionism. He began with the county judge Dr. Meisner, with a lawyer, and with Mrs. Barger.

It is impossible to describe the pleasure that I had when I heard the small circle reading Ahad Haam, Hatzefira, Hashiloach, Berdichevsky's Shinui Erchin, etc. The Galician idealist did not succeed by convincing them about the reading of Hebrew literature. He led them to the conceptual world of eastern Judaism in such a fine way that they were convinced that they were no longer Moravian Jews, to whom the eastern Jews appeared strange, comic and tragic, something beyond normal. He simply created there a Galician Jewish milieu of the young idealistic type. He, by himself, affected the many. He won them over, not hiding from them the shadowy sides of the eastern Jew. He taught them only enough Yiddish so that he could show them the spiritual qualities of the Jewish masses in the east through Yiddish adages.

He began with those three, and now he brought them to the blue and white wonderful banner. He worked with the leaders, conducting heartfelt activities. Now they are already learning Hebrew. Their conceptual Jewish world is slowly coming to the idealism of Jewish academics in Galicia. They may not themselves realize that they are the first “Shomrim, Young Zion” in Moravia, the bridge to the ingathering of the exiles.

Can one not appropriately call this “the resurrection of the dead”?

[Hebrew page 77 & Yiddish page 244]

Two Bolechowers,
Two Different Worlds and Personalities

by Avigdor Ben Leah

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Our town of Bolechow not only made a name for itself in the realm of economics, as men of effort founded two different factories in which hundreds of Jewish employees worked and earned their livelihoods, but also in the realm of culture. Our town was one of the first in Eastern Galicia to establish a secular Jewish school in which boys and girls studied together from Jewish teachers. As well, a Hebrew school for the study of Hebrew as a spoken language was established at the time of the birth of the Zionist movement. Needless to say, a Zionist organization was established at the dawn of the days of the Zionist movement. In short striving and desire to ascend in all areas of life beat in the hearts of the people of Bolechow. This spirit filled up all of the strata of the population, and all age groups.

The youth of my generation who did not yet stream to the Gymnasiums, but nevertheless wished to acquire secular education, used to go out to teach the children of the villages. In their spare time, they would diligently study Hebrew and general studies with books that they purchased from their teaching salary. The skill of these youths of Bolechow spread very quickly throughout the villages. They used to come in to Stryj, near Bolechow, on the cattle market days that fell out during the Intermediate Days (Chol Hamoed) of Passover and Sukkot in order to hire a teacher for a term, which would extend to one week before Rosh Hashanah or one week before Passover. The villagers sought after the youth of Bolechow and offered them good salaries. Furthermore, they would also forego investigating into the qualifications of these youths, as they would do with youths from other places who would normally only be hired after passing a test administered by erudite, scholarly people; for the name of these youths of Bolechow preceded them. From amongst these youths, who would remain in the villages for only a few terms, came people with higher education in Jewish and European culture. They worked in the field of education in our town when they returned from the villages.

I want to dedicate my deliberations to two youths whom I knew personally and whom impressed me. These youths are Yitzchak Hirsch of the village of Zadarovitch near Bolechow and Lamel Meir, a native of Bolechow.

As mentioned, Yitzchak Hirsch was a native of a village that did not even have a quorum of Jews. He finished three elementary school years in the village, and his father taught him some Chumash and Rashi, for his economic situation did not permit him to hire a tutor, as other villagers did. He was diligent and studious, and he acquired for himself some knowledge in the fields of secular and Jewish knowledge. He borrowed books from a young teacher who tutored the children of the lessee of the Jewish tavern in the Hirsch's native village. – Incidentally, it is appropriate to point out that in every village of eastern Galicia, the leasing of the taverns was in the hands of the Jews. They earned their livelihood primarily from Sundays, the holiday of the Christians, when most of the Christians spent their free day at the tavern. – In order to complete his knowledge, Yitzchak Hirsch went to Stryj, like the youths of Bolechow, in order to be hired as a teacher of Jewish children in the villages. Since he was very diligent, studying day and night in order to continue his education, after a few years he had mastered for himself higher education in Hebrew and the vernacular. His name went out in a praiseworthy fashion as a teacher. The villagers competed over him as a teacher for their children. Even though he earned a high salary, he was only left with a few Guilders at the end of the term, for he spent almost his entire salary on books. He was not able to meet even his modest clothing needs. If he had a few Guilders left, he would give them to his impoverished parents when he returned to them for his vacation at the end of his term.

His love of Torah and education knew no bounds. His love of the book was unusual. I revered him as a true scholar, both on account of his wide and deep knowledge, and on account of his modesty, discreteness and his relationship to me, who was inferior to him in years and also in wisdom. At first a teacher-student relationship formed between us, and then a relationship of friendship. Therefore, I am somewhat expert on the events of his life. I now wish to describe two events that will serve as a clear lens into his life.

His parents' home was burnt down during the First World War. Despite the fact that he was imbued with family feelings, he did not lament the loss of his parents' possessions that were destroyed to the same degree as he lamented the loss of his books in that fire. He could not find consolation on this tragedy that overtook him.

Here is another event that typifies him. One fine morning, his mother died suddenly in her prime. As the firstborn son, it was his duty to accompany the coffin to Bolechow for burial. His father, brothers and sisters arrived before he did in order to arrange the burial with the Chevra Kadisha (burial society). When he passed by my parents' street, he asked the wagon driver to stop for a while at my parents' home, and he entered. When I asked how he was doing, he told me about the pain of the death of his mother of blessed memory. However, as he was speaking, he began to talk about matters of Torah, and asked me for a book so he can look something up relating to a difference of opinion between us, for in the interim, I had matured spiritually, and had my independent ideas. Only after I reminded him that now was not the proper time to delve into such matters while the coffin of the deceased was lying in the wagon outside, and his visit to me was disparaging to the deceased even without taking into account that a gentile was watching over it, and he himself was the only member of the funeral cortege, did he forego the book and continue on with his journey to the cemetery.

Aside from his high intelligence, he excelled in his generous spirit. However, the main character trait of Yitzchak Hirsch of blessed memory was his love of Torah and wisdom. He did not only observe Torah in poverty, but literally abnegated himself in the tents of Torah in the most complete sense of the term. He lacked a sense of reality in an astonishing fashion, and for this reason, he could not find his way in life. All of my efforts to find him a teaching job in the city came to naught due to his exaggerated laziness. He remained a bachelor, and died in his prime while I was abroad. Woe about this fine person who was swallowed up by the earth. May his memory be a blessing!

Lemel Meir also spent several terms in the villages, and obtained a comprehensive education. However, he was forged of a different material than was Yitzchak Hirsch. Whereas Yitzchak Hirsch gave his strength over to Torah, Lemel Meir dedicated himself to the Zionist movement and communal service. After he returned from the villages, he married a girl from Bolechow and moved to Stryj, which was, as mentioned, near to our town. There his wife, who was the daughter of diligent and accomplished storeowners, opened a store. At first, their economic situation was particularly good, for Lemel Meir became an agent for the distribution of newspapers, both Yiddish and in the vernacular. However, due to his dedication to the Zionist movement, which was hated by the Polish ruling authorities – who wanted the help of the Jews in their struggle against the Ukrainians, and the Zionists opposed this – his permit was revoked. Due to the removal of this permit on the one hand, and due to the fact that he was a guest in his store but a regular dweller in the “Zion” organization of Stryj, their economic situation became unstable, to the point that they had to liquidate the store. In the meantime his wife died, and Lemel Meir returned as a widower with several children to Bolechow, where his parents and his late wife's parents lived. A few years later, he married once more to a widow from Bolechow. The couple had children from both sides. They opened a store there as well, but there also, Lemel continued to occupy himself with Zionist and communal activity, and neglected to look after himself and his family. He did not do this out of lightheadedness and out of lack of concern for his wife and children, but rather because of his inclination toward communal and activity in addition to his dedication to the Zionist movement. Work for the benefit of the public, and particularly for the benefit of the renaissance of the Jewish nation in its homeland was the breath of his nostrils and his spirit. There was no communal or Zionist activity in which Lemel Meir did not take part. Everything that he did was done with his full devotion, for he had a warm and enthusiastic personality. From my many discussions with him, I learned that he tried to free himself from his inclination toward communal affairs, but he could not overcome this inclination, for without communal and Zionist activity, his life was not a life. He was occupied with communal or Zionist work at all seasons of the year, such as: the setting up of collection plates on the Eve of Yom Kippur for the benefit of the settlement in the Land of Israel so that those who came to attend the Mincha service would donate to that fund as well; the distribution of Keren Kayemet LeYisrael (Jewish National Fund) boxes to homes; the arranging of Chanukah celebrations; memorial ceremonies on the anniversary of the death of the leader Herzl of blessed memory; summer celebrations in the civic gardens that were called Shpatzir Garten (Walking Gardens). New activities were added each year, such as concern for the pioneers (Chalutzim), their preparation and their aliya. He also played the lion's share in communal activities, and he did not desist from any activity. These activities were numerous, and included: communal elections, the appointing of a rabbi, support of the Talmud Torah for poor children, etc.

It is worthwhile to point out that despite the fact that he was a Zionist and a Maskil, he wore the traditional garb with a tendency to popularity. In addition, he would travel once in a while to the Admor of Dolina, a town near Bolechow, for he was not only an observant Jew, but also an enthusiastic Hassid. He spent most of his time in the mornings in the synagogue that was known as the “Poilishe Kloiz”. There he attended services, and he after the prayers, he argued with the Orthodox people who opposed Zionism and conducted publicity for the Zionist movement among the younger generation. As time went on, that house of prayer became a bastion of Zionism.

Lemel Meir was not only dedicated to the national movement and local communal concerns with all his heart and soul, but he became involved in another plan that was very uncommon at the time: civic courage.

This came to the fore in the year 1907, when, for the first time, there were general elections for the legislative assembly in the capital city of Vienna, and the Zionists decided to field their own candidates for the Austrian parliament. As was mentioned above, the government of eastern Galicia was in the hands of the Poles, who opposed the Zionist candidates as they wished that the Jews would vote for Poles, so that they could continue their hegemony in eastern Galicia, where the Ukrainians were a majority. The Jewish population was divided into two camps. Most of the people were attracted to the Zionist candidates, however due to their dependence on the good graces of the authorities for their economic livelihood, they were not so brazen as to publicly go against the Jewish, assimilationist candidates and who were selected by the Polish authorities. Aside from those groups who were concerned about destroying their economic livelihoods by supporting Zionist candidates, there were also “plate lickers” in Eastern Galicia whose entire essence was to curry favor with the government, so that they would be able to utilize the good graces of the authorities to help obtain a seat on either the town council of the community council. Those Jews who were indentured servants to the Poles at the expense of their self-respect were called by us youths “Ma Yafit” Jews. That is the name of one of the hymns that is sung at the Sabbath table and that Jews were commanded by the Poretz (landowner) to sing for the entertainment of his guests [11]. If they would not do so, they would be beaten, thrown into jail, or have their livelihoods destroyed. That is to say, this was a deed that was completely lacking in self-respect, even if it was done by force. Aside from this, in every town of Eastern Galicia there were Jews who had the lust for power and wished to rule with a strong arm. In our town, the physician Dr. Yaakov Blumenthal was forged of the material of those who lust for power and authority, and had plans for powerful rule. That physician was a native of Bolechow, a fine man who was liked by all strata of the population on account his simplicity, popularity, and the assistance he gave to those in need. On the other hand, he was a polemicist who liked to stand up for his opinions. He liked to instill his fear upon the entire Jewish population of the town. Woe unto the person who would not give in to his opinion. It is clear that he could not tolerate that the Zionists (“the youths”) would not dance to his tune, but rather attempted to break loose of his authority and support the Zionist candidate at the time that Dr. Blumenthal was campaigning for – Dr. Lewenstein, an assimilated Jew who was running against the Zionist Dr. Gershon Zipper. The Jews were not willing to publicly cross Dr. Blumenthal, whether out of awe and respect, or whether for fear that it might damage their livelihood. For Dr. Blumenthal ruled over the community even though he was not yet the head of the community, and he did not yet have much influence with the local Polish authorities and the regional governor in Dolina who was all-powerful.

Only one person was willing to publicly go against Dr. Blumenthal. That man was Lemel Meir – even though he was completely dependent on the good graces of the Polish authorities for his livelihood. Lemel campaigned for the candidate with all of his being and energy. It came to the point where Dr. Blumenthal slapped Lemel publicly. However, he was not subdued and did not give in. He continued to campaign for the aforementioned Dr. Gershon Zipper, for in a situation where there was a threat to national pride and the wellbeing of the Zionist movement, it is improper to retreat and to let the battle be won by the opponent.

I know of one more incident in which Lemel Meir did not toe the line, but rather went on his own path without paying attention to the opinion of the community.

The story is as follows. As time went on, he became a follower of Jabotinsky and drew near to the Revisionists in Bolechow, who were for the most part Zionists without any status in life and without any influence in communal affairs. They were also numerically inferior to the other movements. Lemel Meir was at one time the chairman of the local Zionist organization whose members were for the most part people of influence and status. Nevertheless, Lemel did not hesitate to leave the “Zion” organization that was respected by all strata of the people, and to join the Revisionists. Even though he was aging at the time, and concerns of livelihood and education of his children weighed heavily upon him, his enthusiasm and dedication to the Zionist movement in its Revisionist form were not dampened, for a Hassidic soul dwelled within him. Whoever did not see him during the Third Sabbath Meal (Shalosh Seudot) at the Kloiz never saw the sublimity of a soul. His enthusiasm remained with him even as he aged.

An eyewitness told me about an incident that typifies Lemel and his Hassidic soul. The story was as follows. One Sabbath Eve, the leader Jabotinsky was passing through Bolechow on the way to Stanislawow. Even though heavy rain fell that night, Lemel stood on the road for several hours on the street and waited for the arrival of Jabotinsky. When he saw him pass by in a car at the speed of lightning, Lemel declared, “Long live the king”.

In summary, it is possible to state that the soul of the venerable Talmudic scholar Rabbi Akiva, who was one of the ten martyrs of the Roman government, was transmigrated and came to life again in the soul of these two Bolechowers. To be more precise, they split the legacy of Rabbi Akiva between themselves.

Yitzchak Hirsch of blessed memory was consumed was on fire with the love of Torah and cleaving to it. On the other hand, the heart of Lemel Meir was consumed with the fire of dedication to Zionism and communal affairs.

Yitzchak Hirsch sacrificed himself in the tents of Torah and Lemel Meir offered his economic wellbeing and the livelihood of his wife and children on the altar of the renaissance of our nation, despite the fact that he was dedicated and faithful to his wife and children, and that he was a man of intelligence and great talents and activity. I myself see the greatness of spirit of Lemel Meir of blessed memory, in that he remained faithful to the ideals of his youth even in his advancing age. This was at a time when he was almost the only one of his contemporaries who remained faithful to the Zionist ideal, for his former friends and co-idealists had turned away from their intoxication with Zionism as they became important people, with well established livelihoods and influence in the community. Furthermore, they trivialized any work that was not related to the earning of a livelihood. In short, they regarded as childish and infantile the dedicated effort of Lemel in the realms of Zionism and communal work, not for the purposes of monetary gain.

A person who works in communal affairs requires support and recognition, as air to breathe. Only few special people are able to labor for their ideal in an atmosphere of self-negation and scorn from their peers, the situation in which the communal activist finds himself.

The situation is sevenfold when the idealist does not find understanding of his situation in his own home, that is to say when the wife does not offer support to her husband. Lemel Meir merited a second time to have a proper Jewish woman, a widow with several children. However, to the best of my knowledge – I did not know his first wife – she was a simple, practical woman, and therefore, she was unable to understand the tendency of her husband toward activism. Not only did she not support him, but she also fought against him, as I have heard from reliable sources. From the vantage point of her weltanschauung, and as a Jewish mother whose first concern is the wellbeing of her children, she was indeed justified in battling against her husband's way of life, and one cannot place blame upon her.

This did Lemel live and struggle from the front and from the back, in the home and outside. His only source of contentment was that his eldest daughter Rivka, today married to a man of a good family, Mr. Kupfertzein, and the mother of two children, made aliya as a Chalutza (pioneer). She spent some time in an agricultural farm to prepare for her aliya. Her father got her in there with the assistance of Rachel Reis of Bolechow. This was a revolutionary thing in those days. After the aliya of his daughter, his son Yisrael and his stepdaughter Tzila also made aliya.

Lemel waited eagerly every day for the opportunity to make aliya. He would certainly have succeeded, for his daughter Rivka worked toward that end. However, in the interim, the Holocaust descended upon our people with its modern day Haman, may his name be blotted out. Lemel Meir perished in Bolechow with the rest of our people.

May his memory be blessed along with the memory of all of our brothers and sisters in all places, our town among them!

Lemel, the illustrious native of our town, did not merit to make aliya to the Land. However, his soul merited to be continued in his two grandchildren Yair and Chaim, the sons of Rivka, who dedicated their lives to fructifying the desolate places of our Land, places in which not only were the living conditions difficult, but mortal danger was lurking every day at all hours, since these places were near the border of our Arab enemies, who infiltrated into the land and perpetrated murder. The young grandson of Lemel, Chaim Kupfertzein, a twenty-year-old bachelor, was murdered in such an ambush within the past few weeks. He was brought to burial in a large funeral in Haifa, the city where his parents live.

May his soul be bound up with the souls of our brothers and sisters who gave their lives for the sanctity of our nation, our homeland and our State, and who labored to fructify the desolate areas of our Land.

[Yiddish page 246]

The Song of the Kigel

In the form and rhythm of Schiller's “The Song of the Bell”

A parody

by N. Lotharinger and Shimon Elendman

Transcribing is forbidden!

* This song was originally published in 1910 in the publishing house of the author.

Jewish food am I, holy Sabbath and I, the Jewish cultivator am I.

The oven is already warmed
Simmering in the noodle pot
For each Sabbath and festival
A kigel is prepared.

The face is hot
Sweat must be wiped off
The kigel must be prepared well
Angels must roast it.

For the food that we prepare
A “cure” for the innards,
We must have good things
And therefore, we ask for the grace of G-d.

For every observant Jew
A good kigel is a good omen
And the young wife is proud
When the husband likes the kigel.

Secrets are embedded in the kigel
A Jewish wife must understand them well
She must know the secrets
That a kigel must contain.

Take the ingredients together
Honey, eggs, chicken fat and apples
The finest delicacies
Are placed into the noodle pot.
Get out the spoon quickly!
And mix the ingredients around!
So it won't get sticky
And the Sabbath won't be disrupted.

All that takes place
In the life in the world
That takes place to a Jew –
Is typified in the kigel.

As soon as the Jew is born
Before he opens his eyes
Once again, not in the lullaby –
The shochet sends kishke kigel.

He is barely out of the crib
He does not yet see his own qualities,
The belfer (cheder teacher's assistant) comes with the father
And takes the child to the cheder.

A dark room, cold and desolate;
The rebbe sighs, the rebbetzin coughs,
A puff, some smoke, dark melancholy,
And Jewish children learn Torah [12]
“Shoham” An'onikel [onyx], “Leshem” Turkois [opal]
“Tarshish” – a yachtshim [beryl], “Shevo” a tirpvais [agate],
“Achu” – gemoizetz [muck], Tzri – triaug [balsam]
“Nachala” an'orb [inheritance], “Negef” a plag [a plague]…

Take the splinters, pat them down,
With the poker, quickly, hurry!
Turn the coals over well,
So the fire will not cool down!

Mix the kigel, mix
So it will remain fresh!
So it will be able to bake
And not burn in the oven.

He can barely speak any Hebrew
Yet he is chasing after the Chumash
It will be a joyous occasion –
And a kigel is prepared.

“When a woman conceives and gives birth to a male” [13]
Say it, shout it, dear lad!
Shouts the rebbe in anger
And Rashi explains it in common parlance…

The tefillin are on the forehead
He is already allowed to get married
He can go among people
Get an aliya, and participate in a mezuman [14].

He is already an important person
He can deliver an interpretation of the Torah with reasoning,
Ask a question on the Torah
And answer a question from the Gemara.

From the relatives and the neighbors
They send kigels – only the finest
For the darling, for the fine boy,
For the feast that is being made [15].

The kigel appears done
The oven is already sealed up
It is already becoming calm
Soon the table will be set.
Spread the table, spread!
It is already four o'clock!
Soon it will be the holy Sabbath
An angel is fluttering in the oven.

A fine lad, an important person.
The virgin bride, Miss Dvosha
She has much money and pedigree.
The shadchan [marriage broker] brings joy.

A Jew must get married
Move and turn about
Borrow and lend
Run and hurry
Fraternize and suffer
Bend and sway
Move tortuously and push his way through;
Toil and crawl along
Take oaths and serve
Seek a livelihood;
Smile and lick
Be satisfied and bleat –
And never complain
About the difficulties of being a Jew.

Jews must not prolong negotiations.
An agreement is prepared,
Get married, have children.
Hurray! Hurray! The groom is coming.

The Jew has a woman of valor
The finest strophe and the finest song
Sara, Rivka, Rachel, Leah
The finest portrait of a faithful wife…

Kigels of noodles and potatoes
For Sabbaths at all times
A chicken neck kigel for a change
One licks their fingers from them.

Thinking of the Jew's wandering life
Through the mirror of the dark exile
His opinions, his strivings,
Is it not a mixed up kigel?

Here stands a kigel with an appearance,
From which emanates a fine aroma
A fatty steam blows from it;
The heart is, however, unfortunately empty…

There stands a kigel pale and lean
From the outside it is plain ugly,
One laughs at it like some fool –
The heart is, however, sweet as sugar.

Another kigel well-known
It is not pale and not hard,
Without a face, without a color
It is not sweet and not strong…

Another kigel, well-known
Comes out of the land of exile:
It plays cards, and gathers leftovers
It betrays Jews – and drinks a toast.

Presently a Slav, presently a German
Here an Arab, there a Roman,
Tricking and deceiving the entire world
And selling its people for money.

Lay the cloth on the table,
And cover the holes well
The Sabbath has arrived here in the town
A Jew is already moving about with his streimel.

Lay the cloth, lay!
Finish up already!
Let there be no violation of the Sabbath
The shamash is already knocking, come to the synagogue.

The Sabbath is a day from G-d!
For his holy people, the Jews!
A secret lies within the Sabbath,
The Sabbath is a day of joy!

Alas, the city has no peace,
No unity, no respite,
And the “intelligent” group of leaders
Fight over the cream in the coffee…

About shochtim and rabbis,
Over Gabaim and judges,
Comes a struggle, a battle
And one doesn't rest, day and night.

The kloizes are packed
Thousands stream in.
Long peyos
They state their opinions
About the politics of the town
They clap “Shaaa” from the boards of the prayer leader's podium
Pure boards
Rating their words
About rabbis, mikva, shechita [ritual slaughter]
And not forgoing one coin
They continue to speak in the middle of the marketplace
The discuss, they strongly debate
About whether Getzel Berl
About whether Feivel Shmerel
Are fitting for greatness
To be a rabbi in the community…

Terribly, the Jew becomes angry
And he is prodded on by religion,
Terribly and indeed frighteningly
He delivers blows in the name of the Torah.

A slap, a swat
A smack, a blow [16]
A hand into the eye
A beating on the head.
“You fool, you idiot!
How did you get into this world?”
“You shegetz, you drunk!
I am the most important!!”
For many years it is not calm.
The regional offices are full
With complaints and libels
The community displays might
To the landowner, to the writer –
Even to the wives.
There is no conclusion, no end
In the town of Bolechow [17]

The oven is already opened,
The kigel looks so nice
It was a success, so magnificent
We will have a good Sabbath today!

Cut the kigel cut!
As with observant people!
Whomever does not want to eat kigel
Must forget about the Sabbath…

See how the kigel stands
– The “first' food of the world
It lags behind other food
And lies in a pit.

No air and no light
– From angry people, as is known –
In the oven of exile, oh so bad!
Most of the time, the kigel is burnt.

The whole week he runs and pursues,
The Jew has no joy in eating;
But on the Sabbath, what a joy!
When the kigel is placed on the table…

“This day is honored above all days” [18]
Sings the Jew with great feeling
“For on this day the Rock of the World rested”
Like a king on his throne.

After the kigel, after the meal,
Sleep overcomes every Jew
All worries are forgotten
He sleeps as a weary corpse…

The kigel has been eaten up
A dark bitterness falls upon the Jew
The spiritual feeling has departed
He quietly sings a sad song.

In the house it is lonely and dark,
Mother says from the corner,
“Elijah the prophet, in our house
The holy Sabbath has already departed.

All good things should come to us
Should be with us forever.”
And Father, with a sad voice,
Sings, “He who differentiates between holy and secular”.

After the Melave Malka [19], late at night
– It is dark, terribly wild –
The Jew lies, scheming, planning
Filled up with worries.

Suddenly, it is three o'clock
A lament, a shout,
Seething and sizzling is heard,
A fire has broken out…
A wind, a storm,
Clanging from the tower,
The sky is smoky
A great confusion.
Wives are shouting
Men running,
Drawing water,
Dragging bags.
Children complain
Oxes moo
And the flames rise high
Black smoke spews forth.
Glass shatters.
Thieves rob.
Feathers fly
Roofs glow
Voices wail
Bitter curses
Merchandise is carried out of the stores
Torahs from the Beis Midrashes

The sick from their beds,
Jews run to save.
People lie on the streets
Outside it is cold and wet…
A hunger, and a terrible need,
A town sends a bit of bread…

The entire town burnt down,
With children, with weakened hands,
Naked and barefoot, without a shirt,
Jews wander around in strange places.

Go Jew, go
Turn your head around, turn,
You know, you will not run for long
And carry the heavy burden…

Beaten in every limb
Dying as a Jew before his time
In his lonely, dismal grave
He lies far from his brethren.

He never lived and rejoiced,
Always only with pain and tribulations,
Must he already leave the world
And eat kigels in the Garden of Eden;
Made from the wild ox [20]
As large as the entire world;
There he eats, sings and laughs,
There, the Jew is a hero…

In heaven he is a king
He eats kigel all week;
Only there are Jews happy
Not bearing the yoke of the exile.

[Hebrew page 82]

From the History of the Blumenthal Family

by Engineer Arthur Blumenthal

Translated by Jerrold Landau

When Kaiser Franz Josef II annexed Galicia to the Hapsburg Monarchy, he sent teaching staff from Prague, the capital of Bohemia, to Galicia, including Bolechow among other cities.

His aim was that these educators would instill the love of Austria into the Jewish citizens who had been annexed to the state, and acculturate them.

My grandfather's grandfather, Victor Blumenthal, who served as a teacher in Prague, was sent to Bolechow in this delegation of teachers. Thus was he thrown into it.

He was completely assimilated. In the style of the gentiles of that time, he grew of plait of hair. He was nicknamed, “Victor with the Plait”, “Victor mit dem Zopf”.

His strange externals, he stood out from the customary manner of the town. Obviously, he attracted attention in our forsaken town.

With the passage of time, Victor realized that Jews of Bolechow were forged from a different material, and that they would not become assimilationists under any circumstances, for they were deeply routed in the tradition, values and culture of the people.

What would this lone Victor, the exception to the rule, do?

He slowly began to acculturate to them, until he married the daughter of Zif, a citizen of Bolechow.

I heard the following story from my grandfather of blessed memory about his wedding. When the lovestricken lad came to Zif, the father of the girl, to ask his agreement to marry his daughter, he turned as a German speaking Czech Jew to the elder in the following language, “Ich freie um die Hand Ihrer Tochter freien.”. (Translated from rhetorical German: “I request the hand of your daughter.”) Furthermore, freuen means to “make happy” [21]. The future father-in-law of course did not understand the words of trembling Victor, and asked his daughter in Yiddish, “Vus freit er zich azoi epis?” (“What is he doing for happiness?”)

Aside from his role in the school, after the passage of time, he was elected as mayor.

After his death, the school was founded once again by his grandson Shimon in partnership with Nechemia Landis.

Victor had one son named Yaakov, who in turn had six sons and two daughters. From his sons, only Shimon and Aharon remained in Bolechow. I do not know the fate of the rest of them, since they were scattered upon the face of the earth. His grandson Victor the second, my grandfather, was the son of Aharon. The grandchildren of Shimon were Herman and Shimon Blumenthal [22].

Editors's note: Herman Blumenthal lived in Bolechow in his youth. He was an active and vigilant Zionist, and he took part in the movement. Later he moved to Vienna, where he began to exhibit his literary talents.

The following is the list of items that he published: Der Herr der Karpaten; Das Volk des Ghettos; Polnische Juden-Geschichte; Die Abtrunnige; Gilgul, der Roman einer Seelenwanderung; Ahasver in Wien; Junglingsjahre; Der Weg der Jugend; Knabenalter; Der Weg zum Reichtum; Judische Sprichworter; Galizien; Das Ghettobuch.

My father who wrote these words is Dr. Yaakov Blumenthal of blessed memory. As an active student of the Zionist movement, he served as the city doctor when he finished his studies. He founded several charitable institutions, including the hospital, among others. He assimilated as time went on, and at the time of the parliamentary elections, he campaigned enthusiastically for the head of the assimilationist list (Dr. Lewenstein). As a token of thanks, he was chosen by the authorities as an advisor to the Kaiser. He served as the head of the community for many years.

Since he excelled in his traits of generosity and was a popular person, he was recognized and appreciated by young and old. He dealt well with people. He discretely supported the needy. In his latter years, he supported the Zionist movement and the Land. He visited the Land with his wife a few years before the outbreak of the Second World War. He was received very warmly by the natives of Bolechow in the Land. His enthusiasm was very great toward everything that took place in the Land. Like Rabbi Yehuda Halevi, he was blessed with the poetic spirit, and he sang, “Will I not be gracious to and kiss your stones, and the taste of your clods of earth is as sweet as honey to me”.

[Hebrew page 84 & Yiddish page 261]

Personalities and Events [23]

by Manes Weisbard

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Editor's note (only appearing in Yiddish section on Page 261)

The name of this Gabaila was Hershele Wohl. He was named thus as he stemmed from the family of Shaul Wohl, who was King of Poland for one day. He was called Gabaila because in truth, he served for a long time as the Gabbai of the Russian Rabbi Padwa of holy blessed memory. Aside from being the newspaper distributor,he served as the shamash of the Zionist organization during the time of the Zionist movement. He used to serve a buffet there, ensure that there was a minyan, and often served as prayer leader on Sabbaths and festivals.

Light is Sown for the Righteous (Or Zarua Latzadik) [24]

As was his custom each year, one Sabbath during the years of the First World War, the Rebbe of Gliniany (Glyn) visited the large Kloiz. On the Sabbath eve near sunset, the Rebbe and his entourage prepared to greet the Sabbath Queen. They had already completed the Mincha service, and the Rebbe started chanting “Lechu Neranena” is his clear voice. He finished the first Psalm of the Kabbalat Shabbat service, “Arbaim Shana Akut Bedor…”. He also finished the Psalm “Shiru Lashem Shir Chadash”, and concluded it with “Yishpot tevel betzedek veahim beemunato”.

The congregation commenced the next Psalm, “Hashem malach tagel haaretz”. As the Rebbe neared the end of that Psalm, he succeeded in saying “Or Zarua Latzadik”, and then slumped to the ground and died.

Everyone, old and young, indeed believed, “Light is sown for the righteous”.


Thus would a child count in Bolechow: one, two, three, four, five… to ten. Twenty, thirty, forty, fifty… to one hundred. Two hundred, five hundred, one thousand, a million, and kanfas.

Kanfas was the largest number we could imagine. From where did we get this idea? We used to hear from our elders that so and so gave a dowry to his daughter of “Kan Reinesh” (300 Crowns). We understood that this was a jar filled with Reinishes. If this jar “Kan” is many, then a kanfas (a jar and a barrel) is that much greater. This did we invent this strange number.

Editor's note: In the “Yada Em” group, the explanation is that the aforementioned kan is 150 measures of pure gold.

(From Avrahamche Strassman of blessed memory)

A miser died – thus said Avrahamche Strassman – when his mouth was filled with appetizers. As long as he was healthy, and requested that the work from the wealthy people in town, they would push him aside with a straw, adding the known adage “A Jewish worker”. Having no other recourse, he was forced to go from door to door requesting donations. Then they would reprove him: “What? Are you too ill to work?”

However, when he was lying on his sickbed, righteous women would come to him with desserts and beg of him to taste something, for it “revives souls”. However, at that time, the sick man was preparing for the way of all flesh, and he did not pay attention to their entreaties. Having no other option, the women forcefully opened his mouth and fed him the appetizers and desserts that he had brought – and thus did he breathe out his soul.

(From my brother Avraham Meir of blessed memory)

When Dvora Hirsch came to my brother's house in order to take leave of him before she made aliya to the Land, he told her a story about the meeting of two wagon drivers who had not seen each other for many years.

They asked about each other's wellbeing – and both complained about their bitter lot and the backbreaking work. Before taking leave, they entered a tavern, and over a glass of drink, they wished each other health and a long life, and added: “Would it be that we would already stop working”. “And to you” – my brother finished his story – “I wish you that you should go up to the Land and start working there.”


Three times a day, morning, noon and evening, he would leave his home with a running gait and go through the Rynek toward the Magistrate, proclaiming, “I do not want to be a Kaiser, a king, a president, a vice president, a regional head, a Starosta, a mayor or a communal leader. I want just to be Abale and nothing more.”


I did not know his name, and I was never able to find out why they called him Gabaila. He was short, thin, with a wispy beard, and wore boots in the summer and winter. He was the sole representative in town of the Reuters, Fett, Jutte, and other agencies.

Every day, he would go to the train station with slow, deliberate steps, with a leather satchel hanging from his front like Laiganarsky the mailman, in order to receive the newspapers and distribute them to the residents of Bolechow. We waited impatiently for him every day, for we were curious to hear and read the news, and in those days only a few people had radios.

His customers were divided into four groups. The first group paid him in advance, and added his travel fees. To them, he delivered the newspapers to their homes. The second group consisted of those who came to his store that was located in his home near the small bridge. They bought the newspaper from him each day, and on the Sabbath they received it as an inclusion [25]. The people of the third category had to pay him even on the Sabbaths. To the fourth group, non-regular customers, he did not want to sell a newspaper at all. He claimed that they should request it directly from the editor.

Once, an elderly German from the German Settlement came to him and asked to purchase a German newspaper. He found an old newspaper that described the German attacks on France in 1915. The German read what was written and began to angrily curse: “Donnerwetter - die fangen schon wieder an” (“Thunder weather - they are starting again”).

(From my mother Rivka Leah of blessed memory)

My mother would say that there were three things she was willing to forego without hesitation:
Wealth after a fire.
Regaining health after a difficult illness.
Having a successful match for the second time.

A Wife of another Man

We started to study Gemara with Reb Eli Berel Boshes. His stringent face judged frivolity harshly. We did not act up in front of him, for his facial expression made it clear that seriousness was in order.

His seat in the kloiz was near the door. He did not feel himself deprived on account of this. On the contrary, he was someone who respected his place. On Simchat, he was honored with the “Ozer Dalim” Hakafa [26] – whether he requested this himself, or whether it was given to him as being suitable for his position. On occasion, he told a joke, but even then, a smile did not come across his face.

When we came to the segment in the prayers “And say to them, make fringes”, and we kissed the Tzitzit (fringes) of his tallis, he did not stop us. However, after the prayers, he told us, “He who kisses his friend's tallis is as if he has kissed the wife of another man”.

Now, we are permitted to reveal it. We tried not to touch his tzitzit to the point where we almost passed over this mitzvah – not because of fear of being involved with someone's wife, but we were not so brazen as to do this publicly in a holy place.

Translator's Footnotes

  1. The fried fat skin of a duck or goose. Return
  2. Chometz is the term for leavened products forbidden on Passover. Return
  3. A reference to the soup that Jacob served to Esau. Return
  4. A play on words, for “bread of affliction”, can also be rendered “bread of poverty”. Return
  5. The word here is Mitzrayim Gasse, which would mean Egypt Street – although it sounds unlikely that there would have been a street by that name. Return
  6. Perhaps shoemats. Return
  7. A halachic procedure whereby vessels are passed through boiling water or fire (depending on the vessel and the circumstance of use) to render them Kosher for Passover. (In Hebrew, batlan.) Return
  8. The New Moon of the month of Nissan, two weeks before Passover. Return
  9. Bnot Tzion means Daughters of Zion. Return
  10. As a Mitzvah, this refers to Torah study. The adage here is used more generally. Return
  11. I suspect that there is a double entendre hear, as Ma Yafit literally means “How fine” – and could here have the connotation of “Fine and dandy”. Return
  12. The following words are various words from the Torah, with Yiddish renditions, as would be taught in cheder. I included the English translations in square brackets. The first four words are the names of four of the twelve stones on the breastplate of the High Priest. Return
  13. A verse from Leviticus. Return
  14. A mezuman is the call to recite grace, which must be recited only in the presence of at least 3 males over the age of Bar Mitzvah. I suspect that the reference to marriage here refers to the theoretical fact that a boy of Bar Mitzvah age can get married (and very young marriages did take place amongst European Jewry on occasion). Return
  15. A reference to the Bar Mitzvah feast. Return
  16. The next two lines contain four other synonyms which I omitted. Return
  17. Spelled here as Bolechof. Return
  18. From a Sabbath table hymn. Return
  19. Post Sabbath meal. Return
  20. The “wild ox” is a mystical creature (along with the Leviathan), which, in Jewish lore, is on the menu for a feast for the righteous in the Garden of Eden. Return
  21. This is a play on words of a word in the sentence. Return
  22. Note, there seems to be an extra generation here. At the outset, it was stated that Victor Blumenthal was the author's grandfather's grandfather. From this paragraph, it seems that he is the author's grandfather's great-grandfather. Return
  23. The Hebrew and Yiddish sections are equivalent, although there are some discrepancies in order of the subsections. The Yiddish section also has an editors note on the Gabaila section that is not in the Hebrew. Return
  24. A verse from Psalms, forming part of the Kabbalat Shabbat (Welcoming of the Sabbath) service. The next few lines contain other verses of the Kabbalat Shabbat service. Return
  25. No business would be transacted on the Sabbath. The Saturday paper was given free to those who paid for their newspapers during the week. Return
  26. Hakafot (singular Hakafa) are the seven circuits made around the synagogue with the Torah scrolls on Simchat Torah. Ozer Dalim (literally, He who helps the poor) is the segment of the hymn recited during the sixth Hakafa. Return

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